Toronto - The Ontario Science Centre announced today that it recorded its best summer attendance numbers in 10 years, with over 535,000 visitors for the five month period beginning on April 1 and ending August 30, 2007 representing a four per cent increase from 514,000 in 2006. This success is attributed to momentum from the Agents of Change transformation, that saw a renewal of more than 30 per cent of public exhibition spaces, plus new programming that extends the Centre’s reach to a broader audience onsite, online and offsite.

Declining tourism from the United States to Toronto and sunny weather with less than half the regular rainfall would normally lead to lower summer attendance at the Science Centre. While it is a favourite destination year round, the Centre is definitely top of mind on rainy summer days for local visitors, day camps and tourists alike. However, this summer set a new standard for attendance.

“The Ontario Science Centre is continuing the trend started in 2006 when we were the most visited cultural attraction in Canada. With Agents of Change, we led the way, creating new approaches to visitor engagement and a new model for a science centre for the 21st century,” said Lesley Lewis, CEO of the Ontario Science Centre.

Onsite experiences and offerings are designed to appeal to a wide range of visitor audiences and preferences. The internationally acclaimed Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition running to January 6, 2008 is popular with adults and seniors as well as families with children. The Weston Family Innovation Centre is a new, edgy experience area specifically for teenagers and young adults while outside, an exploration plaza TELUSCAPE, welcomes visitors as well as residents of nearby communities.

“Next year promises to be stellar one as well,” said Ms. Lewis. “From June 15 to 19, 2008, the Ontario Science Centre will host the Fifth Science Centre World Congress, held for the first time in North America. This will bring together senior leaders and decision makers from science centres around the world. Immediately prior to the Congress, the Centre will launch Facing Mars – Would You Survive the Journey? – a new interactive exhibition focusing on the human/emotional and international relevance of travel to and population of the planet.”

To become more relevant to a broader audience, the Science Centre has developed innovative programs to engage and challenge visitors with thought-provoking experiences related to science and technology — onsite, online and offsite. An example of this type of programming offsite are the monthly Café Scientifique held at the Rivoli each month, which bring together scientists and citizens to discuss and debate hot science related topics over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.

By leveraging social media such as YouTube, the Science Centre is able to extend its reach even more. For example, a recent visit to the Centre by Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield drew a capacity crowd of 450 to hear him speak in person. A video clip of his presentation posted on YouTube, Yahoo and other video sites has drawn some 200,000 downloads to date. Through its own website, the Science Centre enables visitors to download their creations from the Weston Family Innovation Centre for further work at home as well as to express their opinions through online polls and discussions. Podcasts and blogs from scientists let visitors stay up-to-date on current science issues and headlines.

On Friday, September 28, 2007, the Ontario Science Centre will host the first event of the SCI FRI series. Climate change is the topic for the launch, but the specific global issue will change for each subsequent event. Held on the last Friday of every month, SCI FRI is designed for youth between the ages of 14 to 24 with wide-ranging activities such as DJs spinning, youth speakers, a “chill out” lounge, interactive experiences in the Weston Family Innovation Centre, and a gallery of youth-produced artworks and videos.

The Ontario Science Centre uses science as the lens to inspire and actively engage people in new ways of seeing, understanding and thinking about themselves and the world. The Centre is also a leading developer of interactive exhibitions for science centres around the world. The Ontario Science Centre is an agency of the Government of Ontario.